Obama gets a long, free, smiley-face ride from Leno on 'Tonight'

President didn't just 'drop by,' he was pretty much whole show

October 25, 2012|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

Here's a representative sampling of the questions from Leno in the order they were asked, starting with the first half dozen:

"Wow, you're racking up the miles [campaign stops]. How do you feel?"

"Is there a gym on Air Force One?"

"So, you go to Las Vages next?"

[Obama somehow gets into early voting in his answer and urges viewers to vote early if they can.]

"Anyone you're going to be voting for?"

[Most of these questions are delivered with a stoogey Leno wink-wink, chuckle-chuckle.]

"I want to ask something... So, you're going to Vegas. Ya going to place a bet on the [World] Series? Who ya got?"

[Obama says he might be partial to Detroit given how much time he spent their saving the auto industry. I am not kidding.]

Can you imagine this for the whole show? Really, North Korean TV might want to study this tape as a less heavy-handed way of convincing the populace of the glory of its leader.

Even the questions that might not be obvious lollipops, like Leno asking about the first debate when Obama tanked, are, well, lollipops, because Leno steps back and lets the president go as long and as unchallenged as he wants in re-writing the script of what happened.

Wait, I take that back, Leno does interject himself into some answers -- when he can help Obama sell his message by performing as a comic staightman.

For example, when Obama said of the debate format that it's "not a natural way of communicating, sitting next to someone and having an argument," Leno jumped in with, "Well you're married."

"Yes," Obama says, "but with Michelle, I concede every point."

If you don't think that's scripted, you are, well, just the kind of gullible American voter these TV visits aim to exploit.

In fact, that's what upset me most as I watched last night -- how scripted this long conversation between Leno and Obama seemed. There was not a chance Obama could look bad unless he did drift off again to that weird space he was in during the first debate.

And when Leno presented Obama with questions that he identified as coming from Facebook and the audience, it was worse.

One of the questions allegedly asked: "What is the cure for Romnesia?"

You think someone who wasn't an advance man or writer for Team Obama didn't have a hand in that question either being written or selected? Do you really think any of these questions were asked without Team Obama's pre-air approval? 

The Romnesia one got a big, big laugh from the questioner in chief Wednesday night as he read it.

And there were bigger laughs yet for this retort from the commander in chief: "Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.... But the main cure is to make sure and vote."

This is textbook persuasion by the way: Joke, laugh, message.

Tell me this, Mr. President, what's the cure for a system of electing presidents that is being shamelessly skewed by the manipulation of friendly media -- media that once upon time were careful to try and be fair in access, airtime and treatment of all candidates?

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